Ever since the “1984” Super Bowl ad, much of Apple’s marketing has applied a liberal amount of gravitas to convince customers that buying a Mac or an iPad or an iPhone will help them change the world. In its latest commercial, arch-rival Samsung appears to calls BS on that.
The Samsung spot is a parody of a 2013 Apple commercial for the iPad Air. In the Apple ad, a narrator seems to be explaining the power of a No. 2 pencil, which he says has the power to start a poem or finish a symphony. “It has transformed the way we work, learn, create, share,” he intones. The great reveal is that he’s not talking about a pencil at all, but about the iPad Air, which is hiding behind the pencil because it’s so thin.
Samsung pokes fun at these bold claims. In its spot, a more jocular narrator explains that one of the pencil’s most awe-inspiring traits is that it is extremely pointy. “It’s been used to make tentative appointments and to cheat at golf. Students have used it to play ceiling darts,” he says. The great reveal borrows from Apple, but goes a step further by showing that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 is thinner than both a pencil and an iPad Air. The Samsung tablet also allows allows users to open multiple windows on the screen at once, a feature the iPad doesn’t support out of the box.
Samsung has emerged as a powerful second-place competitor to Apple in the tablet space. The company sold 41.1 million Galaxy tablets in 2013, compared to Apple’s 74.2 million iPads, according to research firm IDC. Still, it’s not clear that mocking Apple is always a winning strategy. Microsoft launched a $300 million campaign in 2008 to try to make the “I’m a PC” catchphrase cool after Apple successfully goaded Windows users in its iconic “Mac vs. PC” commercials. But Microsoft’s counterattack debuted at the same time Apple was taking over mobile computing, so it did little to slow the company’s ascent.
Here’s the original iPad Air ad to compare to the new Samsung one: